Thursday, July 9, 2009

Medicine Buddha Practice

Dharma talk on 1st July 2008
- transcribed and edited by Venerable Aneja

Introduction to Medicine Buddha Practice

Shakyamuni Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma three times and the Medicine Buddha teaching was included in the first turning. In this degenerate age, sentient beings suffer from many sicknesses, some of which we have never heard before. Even with intensive research, the cure for some of these diseases still cannot be found, leaving doctors very perturbed. These are signs of a degenerate age in which diseases are caused by the negative actions accumulated through dishonesty and aggressive behavior.

The blessing of the Medicine Buddha is helpful for elevating suffering and to treat diseases that are said to be incurable. The benefits of the recitation of the Medicine Buddha mantra are useful in this life and beyond. The Medicine Buddha said that He would save us from the lower realms and protect us from bring reborn there. Thus, there are many benefits arising from this practice.

After Guru Rinpoche went to Tibet, the Medicine Buddha practice was the first to flourish in the Land of Snow. In ancient Tibet, many Nyingmapa masters practice the Medicine Buddha sadhana. This practice is very special and unique, as it not only cures our physical sickness but our mental sickness as well. Actually our mental sickness is more severe than our physical sickness. Physical sickness can be cured with medicine but the mental sickness of anger, jealousy and hatred is only curable by applying the Buddha’s teaching.

Sometimes, people with mental sickness may go to a psychiatrist for help. Methods that psychiatrists employ may provide some hope for recovery but may not cure the patient completely. When the methods do not work, the patients often end up feeling more confused and their condition may worsen.

Some time ago, a friend of mine in Denmark was admitted to the hospital and the diagnosis confirmed that he was suffering from the final stage of intestine cancer. He had no family and lived alone in the countryside with 2 dogs. He felt really devastated upon hearing the diagnosis and tried to seek help from various places. To his disappointment, everywhere he went, he was told that it was too late; his condition was just too severe. Eventually, he met a lama from India and asked him what he could do. The lama instructed him to do the Medicine Buddha practice and told him that even if he could not be cured, this practice would be useful after death. My friend was very happy and practiced diligently despite his physical pain, which he tried to endure by taking painkillers from time to time. After practicing for a few weeks, he felt refreshed, comfortable and energetic, and he gradually got better. He went to the lama again to receive blessings and traveled to Bodhgaya to do prostrations and circumambulations. Upon his recovery, he went back to Denmark and is currently still alive. This shows that the faith and karmic connection to the practice are very important.

Preliminary to the Practice

Image of Medicine Buddha

To do the Medicine Buddha practice, you can place an image or a thangka of the Medicine Buddha at your altar. Otherwise, you can visualize the Medicine Buddha in the space before you. Sometimes it is easier to practice by visualizing the Medicine Buddha as we can develop attachment to the thangka. Should the thangka be damaged by heat and moisture, you may feel that you have lost the blessing from the Medicine Buddha. Therefore, it is mentioned in the Medicine Buddha text that even if you cannot find a statue or image of the Medicine Buddha, you can do your own visualization.


Next, you make offering of water, flowers, incense, lamp, scented water, food and music. You can also make these offerings mentally. When we make offerings with physical objects, we can get trapped by many discriminating thoughts. You may not wish to acquire good offering at high prices and will try to bargain for a better price. You may even have thoughts like, “Why do I need to offer such expensive things to the Medicine Buddha?” Therefore, it is sometimes better to make the offerings mentally as this will eliminates some of the discriminating thoughts. After making the offerings, you can proceed to do the chanting.


For high Tantric practice, you do not need to be a vegetarian and you may still be able to drink alcohol. However, this doesn’t give one the excuse to become alcoholic!


As part of the rule and regulation of the lineage, you must receive the initiation to do the practice. As what I’ve mentioned earlier, the transmission is given by the guru to the disciple, the disciple practices diligently and then passes the instructions on to the next disciple.

Our physical and mental sicknesses are caused by disturbing emotions. The more disturbing emotions we have, the more sickness we are inflicted with. From the Buddhist point of view, the sickness of the body and mind are also caused by ignorance. Ignorance refers to not being able to see the true nature of the mind. You are only liberated when you have discovered the true nature of the mind. Until then, you still need to accumulate merits and perform virtuous deeds at the conventional level in order to obtain the true nature of the mind.

Milarepa says, “In the ultimate truth, there is no demon and no Buddha; no meditator and no meditation; no 10 bhumis and no 5 aggregates; no 3 kayas, no wisdom and no nirvana.”

This is what we need to achieve through the various methods in Vajrayana and Mahayana. Until such accomplishment is achieved, we still need to take the refuge vows and generate bodhicitta. These practices will lead us to achieve the true nature of the mind, the ultimate truth.

The Buddha taught the 4 Noble Truths during the first turning of the wheel of Dharma at Sarnath. The message that the Buddha was trying to convey was the identification of suffering. Following then, the Buddha taught according to the individual’s capacity and hence teachings such as Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana emerged. Some people say that there are contradictions among these 3 traditions, this is not true. The methods taught may be different because they need to cater to different individuals, but they all serve to achieve the same aim. For instance a doctor may prescribe different treatment to different patients according to their needs. He may recommend a surgery for one patient, injection for the other and medicine for another. These treatments all converge to the same aim of curing the patients and not to kill them.

In the same way, the Buddhas and bodhisattvas developed many skills and methods to help beings of different capacities. The different methods in Sutrayana and Vajrayana all serve to accomplish the same aim. Practitioners should not think that these practices are contradictory. You are your own judge whether the method is beneficial or not. This is how we should practice. Therefore, the more we practice the Dharma correctly, the more true understanding will arise.

The Buddha said that the finding of liberation depends on the individual. The Buddha cannot transfer his quality to others. You must be dependent on yourself for liberation, not others. We have in us the same quality as the Buddha. He had given us the way and the procedure and there is no doubt that what the Buddha taught was based on what he had experienced. The only problem is that we lack the intelligence (wisdom) and are too lazy to practice. You are inspired to practice when you hear profound and interesting teaching. However, as time passes, you stop practicing. If you continue in your practice, you will know that all Dharma practices are the same. All advices from the Buddha are perfect, there isn’t one that is better than the other.

Our ignorance deludes our mind to differentiate teachings. The delusion becomes more serious when you become so sectarian that what you see with your left eye differs from what you see with your right. For instance, a Maha-atthi practitioner may think that Maha-atthi is the best and Mahamudra is only so-so; a Mahamudra practitioner may think that Mahamudra is the best and Madhyamaka is only so-so. How would you know unless you put the Dharma into practice?

All instructions from the Buddha are the same but the lineage masters emphasize different areas to different individuals by examining their capacity. Therefore, these masters invent other methods based on the Buddha’s teaching. This is why the Vajrayana tradition has many sadhanas, deities and mandalas. Actually if you can practice one sadhana well under proper guidance, that should be enough. You do not need to shop for practices as if you are shopping in the mall, it is simply a waste of time. You can be your own judge on how much benefit you have reaped from the practices. These days, we have books, Dharma centers and teachers to teach us, but how much have we applied? This is something worth reflecting.

People experience greater agitation, expectations and frustrations in this degenerate age, thus they cannot practice properly. Actually, the routine of our daily life happens naturally. We get up in the morning, take a shower, eat breakfast, go to work, then after some work, we go for lunch. It is quite impossible for us to forget lunch. Therefore, Dharma practice should be as such. Let it become such an integrated part of your daily life so that you will not forget it. If you can persevere in your practice, there is no doubt that you’ll be benefited. The Buddha did not lie; He had already gone through the path Himself and knew that the teachings were correct. What we lack is the training and discipline. However, we sometimes forget to practice and waste time walking around, chatting at coffee shops and nightclubs.

Very often, it is when you face some tragedy, for instance a failure in business that you return to the Dharma circle again. This is not correct. The Dharma should not be pegged to circumstances. Death, sickness and old age happen naturally. We should not judge the Dharma practice according to our expectation. Some people may think, “I have practiced for 15 years. I wear many protection amulets around my neck and the weight on my neck gets heavier each year but my obstacles also increase each year. “This common problem among Buddhist practitioners is due to the lack of continuity in the practice. It is very important to continue in our practice whether we are busy or not, whether we are in solitude or among friends. We just have to continue practicing.

I come to Singapore very year to teach. This sharing of the Dharma and the instructions that I had received is important even if it is for just half an hour. Although it is my duty to teach, it is not sufficient to just listen to the teachings, instead you must put the teachings into practice. Grand pujas and initiations are not important. What is important is that we have to wake up. We are still sleeping and have not woken up. Like us, all Buddhas and bodhisattvas had ignorance at the beginning but they have since woken up after going through serious training. The Buddha did not say that we cannot be like Him, instead, he taught that we have the same qualities as him and can achieve what He had achieved if we want to.

The Buddha is not saying this to entertain us; He is genuinely concerned about us and does not want to see us suffer meaninglessly. How many times have we been reborn in samsara and what benefits have we received? We have only experienced more problems, disasters, sickness, worries, one after another. Now, is the time to wake up.

No one wants to suffer, therefore we have to cut the root of suffering. The teaching of the Four Noble Truths that the Buddha taught in his first turning of the wheel of the Dharma is very important. It is taught not simply for us to listen, but to practice it.

The Buddha did not dictate what we must do, it is entirely up to us whether we want to practice or not. The Buddha always encouraged people to examine themselves and his teachings. If they deem it to be meaningful, then they can apply it in their lives; if they see it to be meaningless, then they can just ignore it.

Different religions have different methods to achieve the common aim of benefiting people. Why did you choose Buddhism over other religions? Ask yourself this question and look for your own answer. You are your best witness. Through the years that you spend practicing, you would know if you are at the 1st bhumi, 10th bhumi or still downstairs! Has the Dharma transformed you, changed you and what development have you achieved? Examining oneself is very important. Nobody examines me but I examine myself if I have practiced the authentic teachings correctly or not.

The great Kadampa master Atisha said that there are 2 types of witnesses – witness for others and witness for oneself. The latter is more important. Others can judge your physical actions and speech but only you can judge your own mind. The more you engage in the Dharma practice, the more your qualities will develop. Do not think that you are hopeless. You just lack intelligence (wisdom) and diligence; you just have to wake up!

How do you know if the Dharma is perfect or imperfect? Until you practice it!

How do you know if chocolates are sweet or bitter? Until you taste it!

The Buddha did not want people to respect him blindly, but to respect him by examining and understanding his teaching. Therefore, the Buddha repeatedly said that we need to put the Dharma into serious practice. This does not mean that we have to sit in meditation for 3 or 4 hours. Just sitting for 20 minutes daily is an important practice that will bring results.

In Tibet, the Medicine Buddha puja is performed on many occasions in major temples to benefit the sick and deceased as well as for the clearing of obstacles. The puja can be performed both as an individual practice as well as a group practice. However, nowadays people discriminate between the Buddhas and deities. They feel that, if you are sick, you should pray to the Medicine Buddha and not to Amitabha because Amitabha would not be able to help you; if you are dying, you should pray to Amitabha and not to the Medicine Buddha because the Medicine Buddha would not be able to help you. If you have some wishes to fulfill, you should pray to Tara. This discrimination renders our dear Buddha jobless!

It is still acceptable if we can pray to Tara while remembering that she is the embodiment of all Buddha and deities. But the problem is, we do not have this awareness most of the time. Guru Rinpoche said that all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas arise from the Dharmakaya. From the Dharmakaya comes the Sambhogakaya; from the Sambhogakaya comes the Nirmanakaya. Perfect beings see the Dharmakaya, semi-deluded beings see the Sambhogakaya and deluded beings like us see the Nirmanakaya.

At a conventional level, it is acceptable to think that, “If I’m hungry, I need food; if I’m thirsty, I need water”, therefore “If I’m sick, I should pray to the Medicine Buddha; if I need to clear obstacles, I should pray to Tara.” However, we must always remember that there is no difference between the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

Milarepa's Doha

Dharma talk on 30th June 2008 in Singapore
- transcribed and edited by Venerable Aneja

The Doha that we are going to discuss today is Milarepa’s doha which he has given the last instructions to his heart son, Gampopa.

In order to engage in proper Dharma practice, the teacher gives the instructions and the student listens to the instructions. Both parties need to generate bodhicitta in order to help limitless sentient beings uproot samsara and its causes, thus leading them to Buddhahood.

In the term “Mahayana”, “maha” means great and “yana” means vehicle. Why is this vehicle great?

Its greatness lies in it having the special quality of loving kindness and compassion for all sentient beings, whether they are friends, enemies or strangers. These sentient beings have all been our parents in countless previous lives. However, these beings are now wandering and suffering in samsara, hence we have the responsibility to help them. You are a Mahayana practitioner when you can practice with such motivation. If not, you are just a practitioner.

Milarepa is the greatest yogi in Tibet. He performed many difficult practices and went through a lot of hardship. By adhering to the instructions of his guru, Marpa Lotsawa and through his own practice, Milarepa gained enlightenment in one lifetime. His life story was amazing, therefore his dohas hold amazing meaning. Writers, philosophers and professors can write marvelous things, but they may not necessary experience them. In contrast, Milarepa’s dohas were based on his own experience.

Milarepa’s songs are very meaningful, when you read them, you’ll find them very touching and his teachings can change your life. This is the lineage of blessing. Therefore, even if we only discuss it briefly, it is already very helpful.

Milarepa’s life story demonstrated the proper way of practicing the Dharma. In this degenerate age, we are not able to imitate his practice. His attainment of enlightenment in one lifetime is logical and can be accepted.

Although Milarepa did not go to school to study philosophy, he had pure and profound devotion to his Guru without a single doubt. Upon his Guru’s instructions, he meditated in solitude to help sentient beings. We have already received blessings simply by reading his life story. This is better than doing big pujas, receiving initiation or being blessed by using holy objects to touch our head, shoulders or neck. Therefore, we should read his life story and dohas repeatedly. Even if our understanding is incomplete, whatever we have understood would help us progress in life. This is the blessing of Milarepa.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, especially the Tibetan society, very few people are interested in Milarepa’s songs. His songs were sung in the name of fun during the New Year, but not really for learning or practice. It is only recently that some masters encourage people to learn these dohas.

Milarepa said, “In the future, the hearing of my name would be beneficial to any Dharma practitioner who is unable to practice Dharma properly.” We are very fortunate to be able to see the image of Milarepa, read his life story and hear his doha.

In the Mahamudra, the supreme blessing is to receive Guru’s blessings through devotion without doubt. This essential blessing is our practice. We should do what these masters have done, practice just as how they have practiced, generate bodhicitta just as how they have generated, meditate just as they have meditated, in order to receive the essential blessing.

In the Mahamudra lineage prayer, there is a line that says, “Please bless us, we will uphold the lineage practice.”

This means that in order to receive the full blessing of the lineage and the guru, we need to have commitment. The commitment in this context is different from the commitment we have to abide when we take an initiation. Rather, this refers to the dedication and promise to practice, meditate and follow the guru’s instructions. In this way, there is no doubt that you can get the guru’s blessing.

The unbroken lineage refers to the lineage whereby the guru teaches his close disciple, the disciple practice seriously and when he attains the same realization as the guru, he then transmits the teachings to the next student. The unbroken lineage does not refer to an oral lineage whereby the teachings were simply passed on by speech. These great masters were not trained to sing the dohas in particular tunes or melodies but they sing them spontaneously as a result of their realization. Thus, these songs can benefit sentient beings immediately upon hearing them because of the composer’s realization and its profound meaning. When we hear these dohas, we experiences openness and joy in our heart because we know that we are practicing on the right path.

This doha of Milarepa contains 6 stanzas which I will now explain briefly.

“Son, when emptiness arises in the individual’s mind, do not try to follow the word. Why? If you simply follow the word, then you may be trapped by its worldly meaning. Therefore, you should rest in the state of non-arrogance.”

The word “son” refers to Gampopa, the heart son of Milarepa. The realization of emptiness arises spontaneously at any moment. When this realization arises, do not be trapped by words like “emptiness”, “Mahamudra”, “Maha Ati” and other terms. We have attachment and desire toward these big words. This also means that once you have realized the true nature of the mind, terms like Mahamudra, Maha Ati would become meaningless. When you realize one, you realize all. If you cling on to these Dharma terms, it will not be beneficial to your realization. These words are just skilful means to explain the method to beginners. Once you have realized the true nature of the mind, these terms are no longer useful.

“Son, when self liberation (tib: rung tol) arise in individual’s mind, do not employ the practice of logic (valid cognition). If you do this, you may be wasting your time or earnestness. Therefore, once self liberation arises, rest in the state of thoughtlessness.”

Self-liberation is the liberation of oneself. No one can help to liberate you. It is not as if you are in jail and someone comes to release you. Through studying, meditating and following the instructions of the guru without doubt, liberation arises spontaneously and effortlessly. Therefore, there is no use for valid cognition. We only need valid cognition to establish our conviction in something. Thoughtlessness does not refer to a state of fainting, but instead refers to the natural state of the mind.

“My Son, Gampopa, when understanding on the experience of selflessness arises, do not mental proliferate… go further into thinking whether selflessness is one entity or two. If it is one, then there will be many, do not differentiate... (Rinpoche had problems translating this part, so he did a rough translation based on his understanding) Because if you do, this leads to differentiation. Instead, rest in the state of emptiness, the natural state of the mind.”

When you are unable to experience selflessness, you go much further (mental proliferate).

“Son, when you meditate on Mahamudra, do not be too diligent to accumulate virtuous deeds of the body and speech. This may cause diminution of the natural wisdom of non-thoughts. Instead, rest in the state of unfabricated awareness.”

This means that once you have realized the Mahamudra, all activities will spontaneously become virtuous and there is no need to do prostration, chant mantras, perform circumambulation or offer mandalas. These may instead hinder the Mahamudra or Maha Ati practice.

We claim to be practitioners and go to the temple to pay respect to the Buddha’s statue, do prayers, offer butter lamps and incense. Whether you are engaged in dharma practice depends on your mind, not the body or speech. If we do virtuous actions with our body and speech, but the mind is non-virtuous, this is not proper Dharma practice. You are your own judge because others cannot judge your mind. Therefore the Buddha says that the mind is like the king while speech and body are its attendants. Once the ordinary mind transforms into the Mahamudra, the speech and body will become virtuous as well.

Therefore, you should not be attached to meritorious actions of the body and speech and think that they are important. If you are attached to them, the virtues of non-thoughts will be diminished. Therefore, if you experience non-thoughts, hold it and rest in that state.

There is a story about a practitioner of the deity Vajrakilaya. This practitioner chanted the mantra “Om Vajrakilaya” wrongly as “Om Varja chili chili ya”. A non-practitioner heard his chanting and corrected him. The Vajrakilaya practitioner said, “Never mind, I don’t care. Last time I chanted ‘chili chili ya’, now I chant ‘chili chili ya’, in future I will continue to chant ‘chili chili ya’.” Then he took out his phurba and threw it at the nearby rock wall and the phurba remained stuck on the wall. This practitioner chanted with his mind, not with his speech. This shows the importance of the mind. Vajrakilaya wants you to chant with your mind and is always with you when you do that.

“My Son, Gampopa, when you receive indications, visions and prophesies due to your practice of the Mahamudra, do not feel excited or proud. Sometimes these prophecies are given by demons. Please rest in the state of non-destruction (non-attachment).”

This applies to all forms of meditation. Sometimes we may feel different, have certain dreams or visions and we become attached to them. Instead, we must think of these indications as hindrances and obstacles. When we feel good about having such visions or prophecies, we are the ones who inflate ourselves. You should inform your guru about these indications and he/she will instruct you accordingly.

“My Son, when you pacify your mind, do not generate attachment to the practice itself. If you do, the practice may be taken away by the devil of destruction. Therefore, rest in the state of non-expectation. ”

We have expectations when we do our practices. We hope to be free from sicknesses, mental defilements, enemies and some may hope to gain miraculous powers, to be able to move through rocks. These expectations are great hindrances to our practice. Thus, we should stay away from expectations. We just concentrate on doing the practice well and the results will come spontaneously.

The great master Jawa Jamgonpa of Drupa Kagyu said that if one holds expectation for meditation, one’s meditation would not be developed. Expectations hinder meditation. Without expectation, one’s meditation will progress at a faster rate.

Abstracted from “The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa”,
Translated and annotated by Garma C.C. Chang. Pg 494

“My son, when the Realm that is beyond
Playwords in your mind appears,
Do not let yourself indulge in talk
Lest you become proud and garrulous,
Carried away by worldly claims.
It is important to be humble and modest.
Do you understand, Venerable Monk from Weu?

When Self-liberation appears within,
Engage not in logic and speculation
Lest meaningless activities involve you,
Son, rest yourself without wandering thoughts.
Do you understand, Venerable Monk from Weu?

When you behold the void nature of Mind,
Analyze it not as one or many
Lest you fall into the void-of-annihilation!
Son, rest at ease in the sphere beyond all words.
Do you understand, Venerable Monk from Weu?

When you practice Mahamudra,
Practice not virtuous deeds with mouth or body
Lest your Wisdom of Non-distinction vanish.
Son, rest at ease in the non-doing state.
Do you understand, Venerable Monk from Weu?

When revelations and prophesies are disclosed,
Be not be conceited or overjoyed
Lest you be deceived by devilish presages.
Son, rest at ease in the non-clinging state.
Do you understand, Venerable Monk from Weu?

When you observe your mind with penetration,
Stir not ardent passion or attachment
Lest the devil of desire possess you.
Son, rest at ease and without hope.
Do you understand, Venerable Monk from Weu?

Maitripa's Songs Of Realization

Dharma teachings from 24th ~ 27th June 2008 in Singapore
- transcribed and edited by Venerable Aneja.

Jun 24, 2008

Dohas are songs of realization composed by great pandits and siddhas. There are hundreds of dohas by Indian siddhas that contain the ultimate meaning, which can be practiced to lead us to enlightenment within one lifetime. These days, we imitate dohas by singing in melodious tones without truly understanding them. We can spend weeks and months to prepare and practice them but we can’t sing them well. Unlike us, the great Indian and Tibetan masters sing them spontaneously (based on their spiritual attainments) therefore these dohas can benefit sentient beings.

Most of us do not know how many dohas existed. Hence we regard them as songs and sing them during festivals in the name of fun, not bearing in mind that these were composed by realized beings whom we supplicate. If you study, contemplate, meditate or try to experience what is taught in these dohas, you’ll know that they serve to give us encouragement, that we are no different from the realized pandits such as Saraha, Naropa and Milarepa. This shows that the true nature that they have realized is within each and every one of us.

Buddhist practitioners start their practice by taking refuge in the Triple Gems, studying the Four Noble Truths, then proceeding to the Mahayana practice. All these different levels of teaching lead to the practice and achievement of the Mahamudra. We cannot moderate the Dharma and make it fun for ordinary people, making them laugh to enable them to think that the Dharma is great. The Buddha has already moderated the Dharma according to the level of sentient beings. The Buddha always taught bearing in mind the capacity of sentient beings. Therefore, we cannot moderate the Dharma more than what the Buddha has already done.

The instructions from the great masters are all great; the problem lies in us always saying that we are too busy to practice. These realized beings had gone through hardship not for themselves but for us such that they could even sacrifice their lives. They have given us very precious instructions and all we need to do is to follow these instructions but we are hindered by the lack of time.

As Buddhist practitioners, we all look forward to profound teachings and practices such as the Mahamudra, high Tantra and we hope to achieve enlightenment in one lifetime. Yet, when you look at how much time you spend on your handphone, laptops, family, shopping centers, you would realize that you are not skilful at all. You want something, yet you don’t want it. If you just spend 15 to 20 minutes a day to practice and meditate, you’ll see how much delusions you have in your mind and how much negative karma you have accumulated. The 20 minutes accumulated daily to study and meditate will enable you to progress towards the real Dharma.

You may think that ordinary people cannot apply the instructions from the dohas. Actually the instructions in the dohas are not special or extraordinary. They are in fact very simple and focus on how to improve the quality of the mind and are explained according to the different individual’s capacity. The realized beings can see that each individual has the natural quality within them. However, we cannot see this quality because we are deluded and obscured by afflictive emotions.

There are three doors to our experience – body (physical), speech (verbal), mind (mental). Out of these three, the most powerful is the mind which dominates the other two. Therefore, dohas serve to clarify and enable us to recognize what the mind is, hence giving space to engage or train our mind.

When we visit the temples, we pay respect to the Buddha’s image, do prostration physically, chant prayers verbally and supplicate mentally. Our misconception lies in thinking that we are receiving blessings from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas but not realizing that we can be like them in the future. You have the Buddha’s quality within you all the time but you ignore your unseen quality and have not identified it. Instead, you are always looking for blessings and lack the confidence or pride that you are no different from the Buddha.

As long as you cannot comprehend this point, you will always see yourself as a practitioner who emphasizes on doing what is right, refraining from what is wrong. You focus on morality and discipline without understanding what the true purpose for these practices is. Therefore, you are always delaying and degrading yourself and you may even give up Buddhism eventually. This is all due to not being on the right path.

The practice of the Dharma is not simply to train the body or speech. More importantly, it is the training of the mind. Therefore, we have to meditate. Meditation sounds like a big word to many people leading them to think of the meditative posture that is to be maintained, the long hours that one has to sit and the possibility of one eventually dosing off. Actually meditation is to be practiced in all our daily activities and awareness should be maintained awareness at all time. Otherwise, we simply cling and attach to the name of practices such as Mahamudra, pursuing them without an aim, eventually becoming confused!

When tragedy happens to us, we do not know how to deal with them and feel hopeless. For example, if a doctor tells you that you are suffering from an incurable ailment, you will start to feel sad, thinking that you have to part with your family and your balance in the bank accounts. Dohas teach you how to help yourself without relying on someone else.

Therefore the Buddha repeatedly mentioned that you are your own guide and that no one else will direct you. How then, can you be a guide for yourself? By realizing the true nature of the mind!

The above explanation is a general introduction to doha. Some of you may be new to doha, so you may be wondering, “What are dohas? Are we going to sing them tonight, or is Rinpoche going to sing?” No, I’m not going to sing, but I will teach briefly from them. Tonight I’ve chosen a doha composed by Maitripa. This doha explains the correct view, meditative concentration, conduct and fruition. Maitripa is a great master who had realized the true nature of the mind (Mahamudra) and taught this doha to his close disciples. This doha is a summary of the ocean of his teachings.

I received this teaching from the late Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and received blessings from him. I will have to read the doha to you in Tibetan just as how Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche read it to me previously. This Tibetan recitation is important because Maitripa did not speak English. This teaching is probably recorded in Sanskrit or Pali and the translators who translated them into Tibetan were not ordinary beings but bodhisattvas.

“Our six senses, eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind, when they are in contact with external stimuli produce perceptions of two notions – good and bad, beautiful and ugly. Every perception is just a projection of our mind. That means that these perceptions are not separate from the mind, just like the reflection of the sun or moon on the water surface. Likewise, nirvana and samsara are inseparable, they are in oneness. Enlightened beings (Buddhas of the past, present and future) are inseparable from sentient beings just as the how water of the ocean and the waves on the ocean are inseparable.”

Ordinary beings like us are deluded while the beings who have realized true nature are Buddhas. How is it possible that we can be at the same level as the Buddhas? In terms of the essence of the true nature, there is no difference between sentient beings and the Buddhas, because disturbing emotions are temporary, they come and go. If we are able to see the true nature of the mind, these disturbing emotions would not exist.

What confuses us is that we perceive the projection of what we see and hear, as real and solid. This is the start of samsara. This doha tells us that what we see or hear is not separate from our mind, the Dharmakaya. The moment you can train your mind to see that these projections are reflections of the mind, they will dissolve back into the Dharmakaya.

This key point is very important to all Buddhist practices and is not limited to the Mahamudra. We must understand it experientially, not just logically. If you lack this understanding, no matter how much effort you put in, the result is only mediocre. This is because you lack the confidence in your inner quality and strength. Our inherent quality - Buddha nature – is not created through study, contemplation or meditation. It is inside us all the time.

In the Vajrayana practice, our masters may instruct us to do the four foundations as a preliminary practice. This is a lot of hard work and the accumulation for each foundation comes in thousands. You may ask, ”When am I going to be enlightened? Is it after the prostration, Vajrasattva or Mandala offering?” However, what’s important is to know WHY you have to do these preliminary. You need to do these preliminary because you are deluded and you have not seen who you are. If you want to see the true nature of your mind, you would need to transform your delusions into the Dharmakaya. Therefore, you do prostrations. The true understanding of the practice is very important so that you are not doing the practice blindly, but rather meaningfully. Without true understanding, the thousands of prostrations that you do is only a mere torture.

We need to wake up because we are still sleeping. If you compare two people, one is asleep and the other one is awake. The former is having a nightmare in which he was being attacked by fierce beasts and monsters, running away from erupting volcano and falling down in the process. The only difference between these two people is that the former is asleep while the latter is awake. The awakened beings are the Buddhas; the sleeping beings are sentient beings. The quality of the Buddha and sentient beings are the same, the only difference is that the Buddha is awake while we are still sleeping.

How do we wake up? We have to practice and train our mind, meditate diligently and maintain mindfulness at every moment. Meditation does not mean simply sitting in concentration but being mindful of our every engagement in daily life, how we perceive our friends or enemies, the reactions and feelings that we have toward them. In this way, no time is wasted and we can apply our practice in everything that we come into contact with at every moment. This is what we called meditation.

Milarepa said in one of his dohas, “I have not studied thoroughly because I don’t need to.” This means that Milarepa did not go to school or university to do formal study, but samsara has provided him with many instructions. The trees, mountains, buildings, roads all became his instructors by providing him with essential teaching. Thus, he did not need to go through intensive studies or read hundred pages of books. Likewise, when we can apply meditation in daily life, we become just as watchful.

If you are able to approach your practice in this way, external objects will no longer disturb you. At present, we are disturbed by external objects. We are happy when we see or hear pleasant things and are unhappy when we see or hear unpleasant things. External objects can shake our mind. If you train your mind well, all external objects will not affect you but will instead become your friends to support and help you progress in your practice.

This is the end of tonight’s teaching. It is important for us to try and make some notes and remember them. If we simply listen and forget them once we walk out of the center, then tonight’s activity is meaningless. We are simply discussing about what this person had said long ago and that this person had since passed away.

Today we pray, “May I realize the Mahamudra.” 10 or 20 years later, we are still saying the same prayer. When we are about to die, we are still saying the same prayer! This is meaningless because we should not just say prayers in words, but put in effort to practice them. The Dharma needs to be practiced and it is through practice that we will see the results. Others can correct our physically actions but ultimately, we are our own witness and we should correct ourselves. Nobody can show us what the true nature of the mind is; we have to see it ourselves. Training ourselves does not mean the sole training in morality. It means applying meditation in each and every activity. Otherwise, you will die still reciting prayers!

Jun 25, 2008

In order to help sentient beings uproot the causes of samsara and become a Buddha, we must study these dohas. Generating bodhicitta is the crucial point in the Mahayana practice, without which no matter how profound one’s practice is, one cannot reap the benefit of the Mahayana tradition. Therefore the discussion of the dohas of the great pandits in India and Tibet should be propelled by the motivation to benefit sentient beings.

The mind that is free from substantial and non-substantial thoughts, is the mind that we aspire to realize. The true nature of the mind is completely free from substantial and non-substantial thoughts, yet we cannot see that because it is obscured by our dualistic thoughts.

The mind here refers to the Dharmakaya and bears reflection of the two dualistic notions. We need to recognize the mind that differentiates between nirvana and samsara. After recognizing it, we can then know how to approach the true nature of the mind, the Mahamudra.

Maitripa was trying to point out that there is not much difference between samsara and nirvana. When one has not realized that one’s mind is free from substantial and non-substantial thoughts, one experience samsara; when one has realized the true nature of the mind, one experiences nirvana.

Both the Mahamudra and Maha Ati repeatedly emphasized that the nature of the mind is no different from the mind that we currently experience. We are helpless in face of our thoughts, which are very powerful and constantly dominating us. When anger arises, we do what anger wants us to do.

Maitripa said that when anger arises, we should look at the essence of anger. What is anger? What are its shape, color and characteristics? How does it exist? We should do investigation thoroughly. Once anger is being recognized, it will be transformed into the Dharmakaya. Therefore, anger is not separate from the Dharmakaya.

The great Tibetan yogi Milarepa says, “The consciousness or mind which is unable to realize its true nature is called illusion.” When you call something nirvana, then something called samsara will exist. It is because of samsara that nirvana exists. Actually, both nirvana and samsara do not exist, as these two notions are created by our consciousness. To yogis like Milarepa who have already recognized the true nature of the mind, nirvana and samsara do not exist because they are just projections of the mind, the reflections of the Dharmakaya.

The Tibetan word for (conventional) wisdom is “sherab” while the Tibetan word for primordial wisdom is “yeshe” and in Sanskrit it is called “jhana”. Primordial wisdom has three levels:

Basic wisdom

· Beings have not realized the true nature of the mind, but they have reflections of good and bad thoughts. These thoughts are not separate from yeshe but beings cannot recognize it.

· Basic wisdom is also called ground wisdom. The Tibetan word for ground or place is “shi”. This is the first level of yeshe. The Buddha already saw and attained this wisdom, so it is meaningful to study, contemplate and meditate to surface it.

· When you receive teachings from a guru, you study and meditate on the teachings. Without the ground wisdom, there is no way to purify negativity, accumulate merits and realize the true nature of the mind. It is from this ground wisdom that all other qualities grow.

· In the Vajrayana teaching, the Buddha emphasized that all sentient beings are essentially pure. Why did the Buddha say that when sentient beings are impure and full of negativity, constantly performing non-virtuous actions and acting under the influence of afflictive emotions? It is because the ground wisdom is present within every individual. The Buddha felt sympathy for beings wandering in samsara, committing negative actions that result in further suffering in samsara. Sentient beings are not separate from the Buddha and have the same excellent true nature, which is free from substantial and non-substantial thoughts. The only difference is that sentient beings lack the diligence to practice and accumulate merits, therefore they remain in the same state.

· This is now the time for us to recognize the true nature of the mind. We have the necessary conditions for practice and meditation, and there are teachers to guide us. Hence, we should be able to discover and realize the ground wisdom.

Path Wisdom

Realized Masters who have spiritual experience can give clear instructions. We know that what they have said is true because it is based on their personal experience. This is the blessing lineage. This lineage is not reliant on using physical objects such as holy objects, blessed water or sweets to give blessings. The blessing comes from the true nature of the mind that the master had realized and transmitted to the student. The student then practiced the way the master had instructed, attained the same realization and then passes on the blessing to the next student. This unbroken transmission is the unbroken lineage.

Wisdom of fruition

This is the enlightenment that comes as a result of the ground and path wisdom. Enlightenment does not mean going to a place where you would not be found by others. It means the recognition of the true nature of the mind to be completely free from substantial and non-substantial thoughts. You do not need to imitate the Buddha’s posture or carry an alms bowl like him to be enlightened.

Milarepa said in his doha, “I myself am enlightened because of the blessings of my guru and lineage. I myself have realized the true nature of my mind. You can call me ‘one who is enlightened’.”

Sentient beings are very attached to the word “Enlightenment”. They think that enlightened beings come in different shapes and sizes. This is not necessarily true. An enlightened person can still be a human being, enjoy life, wear good clothes and eat good food, just like any normal person. But, his inner quality is different from others. He is completely awakened. He is a Buddha.

Maitripa continues in his doha:

“The moment one realizes that the mind is free from substantial and non-substantial thoughts, is like lighting a small lamp which immediately eliminates the darkness of a room. Similarly, realizing the nature of the mind can eliminate samsara’s confusion spontaneously.”

At that moment, the practitioner would realize that substantial and non-substantial thoughts are projections of the Dharmakaya. Hence, samsara’s confusion ceases immediately.

“The Mahamudra, which is the union of emptiness and clarity, is beyond our conception.

We have grasping in our mind. We have concepts that positive things should be achieved and negative things should be abandoned; virtuous things should be obtained and obstacles should be discarded. As long as we abide in such dualistic thoughts, we have not approached the Mahamudra practice.

“The union of emptiness and clarity is the Mahamudra. The Mahamudra is nothing separate from the union of emptiness and clarity. It is vivid (can be seen) and yet non-dual.”

The union of emptiness and clarity pervades all phenomena, not only in the mind. The things we see, the houses, roads, mountains, lakes, elements of nature are inseparable from the clarity of the mind. Therefore, the Mahamudra is pervasive. Likewise, nirvana and samsara are not separate from our own mind, which is inseparable from clarity and emptiness.

The 15th Karmapa said in his teaching, “Samsara or cyclic existence is not separate from nirvana. Our dualistic thoughts are not separate from wisdom.”

What we need to do is to transform the conceptual mind to wisdom. If you have concepts like, “Having thoughts is bad, not having thoughts is good”, this is a hindrance to the realization of the Mahamudra.

It seems difficult to understand at this point in time, but if you have a good teacher and practice well, you would know that it is true. One gains enlightenment through this understanding. Teachings like Madhyamaka provide different ways that lead to the same destination.

The Mahamudra teachings always talk about the mind. Our habits are deeply rooted and our afflictive emotions have been with us for a very long time. When our habits and thoughts arise, do not react with aversion. You would not be able to win them by force. Instead, try to make friends with them and observe how they function. Mahamudra teaches this technique of making friends with your thoughts. When you know the real tricks of your mind and realized the essence of afflictive emotions, they can no longer disturb you.

All qualities of the Mahayana practice such as compassion and loving kindness arise from the union of emptiness and clarity. Once you have recognized the true nature of your mind, all these qualities will arise endlessly, spontaneously and the number of beings you can benefit will be limitless.

The doha continues, “It (union of emptiness and clarity) is pervasive and vast, containing loving kindness.”

Bodhisattvas repeatedly say that we need to benefit sentient beings. How do we benefit them? We are at present very limited in the scope which we can help sentient beings. When we help others, there is some form of expectation causing us to feel tired at times. When you can be free from expectation of returns from others and sincerely wish to benefit sentient beings, the benefit that you can provide spontaneously becomes profound, vast and limitless. It is through understanding the true nature of the mind that we can free ourselves from expectation in order to truly benefit sentient beings.

“You don’t need to discourage yourself by thinking that you may not gain enlightenment, or you may not be able to help sentient beings. This is a disturbing attitude and an obstacle to your practice.”

Our mind was not deluded initially. It is pure and free from expectation, fear, doubt and stains. Verbally, we cannot explain the Mahamudra but we can experience it through our understanding and practice. It is like a mute who is experiencing a drink. He may be able to make some expression to tell you how it taste, but he is not able to explain it. Likewise, people who realize the true nature of the mind will know it through their own experience.

We need less communication but words with more meaning. It is through meditating and experiencing the true nature of the mind that we transmit wisdom to our students. Verbal communication cannot give the full meaning of Mahamudra. Even if you write a book of 100 pages, you still cannot fully explain what Mahamudra is. Anyone can say the words, “Mahamudra”, “Madhyamaka” and “Maha Ati” but not everyone can recognize the true nature of the mind. You need to spend some time to meditate daily. Meditation does not simply mean maintaining a certain posture for a period of time, but rather maintaining mindfulness of every engagement, every minute of the day. Whether you are in solitude or a crowd, you watch your mind every moment, observing if it behaves the way that is mentioned by the teacher or in the book. Each and every moment, you are very mindful of the activities of the mind. In this way, you will gradually gain some familiarity and get closer to the true nature of the mind.

The true nature of the mind is also observing you and will become friendlier as you progress in your practice. It does not take long to see the true nature of the mind. If you practice diligently, it is possible to realize the Mahamudra in this very life.

To be free from substantial and non-substantial thoughts is not sufficient. At our level, we are disturbed by our thoughts. When you meditate, you may feel that more thoughts are arising and you should pay attention to these thoughts.

In the Mahamudra text, it repeatedly says that, the more thoughts you have, the more you can realize the true nature of the mind. If there are no thoughts, there is no way to realize the true nature of the mind.

When anger arises, pay attention to it. What is anger? What are its shape, color and characteristics? How does it exist? Where does it go? Investigate it thoroughly. From here, one can find out what the clear mind is. The clear mind is something that gives you bliss. Bliss encompasses clarity, openness and happiness.

To achieve true understanding of the mind, you need thoughts. When thoughts come, do not run away but welcome them. In the text, it says to “rest” when thoughts arise. “Rest” doesn’t mean falling asleep, but rather resting in the thought, seeing it vividly.

Jun 26, 2008

“The experience of the clear mind and emptiness is immeasurable or limitless because the qualities of the innate wisdom is immeasurable. Once the individual has recognized the inner experience, all noble qualities will arise endlessly.”

We use the words “great bliss” to describe this experience. The true nature of the mind is innate wisdom. Once it is being realized, unfabricated bliss will arise. Why is this nature unfabricated? The worldly bliss experienced by the body and mind is fabricated, but the true nature of the mind is unfabricated. It’s like the sun and the moon. The light and heat from the sun pervades everywhere. Likewise, the projection that we see is inseparable from the Dharmakaya, which pervades nirvana and samsara.

The sun and moon shines boundlessly. Likewise, the Mahamudra and Maha Ati practitioners truly experience the innate wisdom and are able to transform the suffering of body and mind into Mahamudra. There is no suffering of the body and mind that cannot be transformed to the Mahamudra because they are all projections. Phenomena, whether they are big or small, high or low, beautiful or ugly, are just notions. All these can be transformed into the Mahamudra or Dharmakaya.

When you read the life story of great masters like Milarepa, Tilopa and Naropa, there are accounts that these great yogis could fly in the air like birds, swim in the oceans like fish and move through mountains and rocks as if their bodies were formless. These are what we call miracles but these are actually true facts. The deluded mind cannot see these facts because of our obscuration, dualistic thoughts and fixation to what is good vs bad, virtuous vs non-virtuous. These miracles are natural qualities of the mind, which can be experienced. Therefore, yogis can display such miracles freely without attachment.

In the life story of Marpa Lotsawa, when he went to India to see the great pandit Naropa, he brought with him a huge amount of gold from Tibet. He felt that when he meets his guru, he must offer something precious in order to receive blessings. Gold is very expensive and hard to find, yet Marpa brought them all the way from Tibet to India to offer them to Naropa. When Marpa offered the gold to the Naropa, Naropa refused to accept it, saying that he did not like gold. Marpa offered a second time and beseeched Naropa to accept it. This time, Naropa accepted the gold, took it from Marpa’s hands, but immediately threw it away into a nearby forest.

Marpa was shocked! He thought, ”This gold is very precious and I had painstakingly brought them here from Tibet. Now it’s all thrown away and wasted!”

Naropa read Marpa’s thoughts and said, “If you still want your gold, I still have it.” Naropa opened his palm and revealed the gold that Marpa had given him.

This may sound something magical, but these are actually projections of the mind. We have the concept that gold is expensive and become attached to them. In contrast, we think that stones are worthless. However realized beings like Naropa had surpassed such notions of good or bad, expensive or cheap, knowing that all these are projections and illusions. Therefore, he could show the gold to Marpa even though he had already thrown it away. These are signs of the realization of the Mahamudra or Dharmakaya.

“How wonderful! The true nature of Mahamudra exists naturally within the yogi’s mind.”

This expression of “how wonderful” describes the noble quality within each individual, which is not created through study, contemplation, meditation or lineage blessing. We cannot see our noble quality because we lack diligence and wisdom. It exists within each individual since beginningless time. Our delusions remain and we are still unrealized sentient beings because we did not have a proper teacher and had not developed the proper practice. If you practice diligently, this noble quality can be seen easily.

The Maha Ati tradition often uses the word, “Samantabhadra”. In Tibetan, Samantabhadra is “Kun Tu Sang Po”. “Kun Tu” (samanta) means time, “sang po”(bhadra) means perfect. Together, they mean, “perfect all the time”.

Although sentient beings are full of afflictive emotions, yet they are pure in essence at all time. Afflictive emotions are momentary and are not always present. They exist because we ignore our qualities and do not pay attention to our suffering. If you pay attention with perfect wisdom, you will know that these suffering and delusions are baseless and fruitless and can be eradicated. They do not truly exist. Therefore, we are in essence Kun Tu Sang Po, perfect all the time.

In one of the Samantabhadra text composed by the great Nyingmapa master Longchenpa, he explained that, “Birth and death is Samantabhadra; happiness and unhappiness is Samantabhadra. In the state of Samantabhadra, there is no birth, death, happiness or unhappiness.” This means that birth and death are projections; therefore it’s a reflection of Samantabhadra and is not separate from Samantabhadra.

If you recognize the true essence of birth and death, you will realize that it is inseparable from Samantabhadra. In Mahamudra, this means that nirvana and samsara are inseparable from the innate wisdom, therefore Maitripa uttered, “How wonderful!”

Now that we realize our mistaken view and how deluded we are, we would know how to approach the Mahamudra because we are no different from the realized beings. We have the same noble qualities within each of us.

You can find similar meaning in the Heart Sutra, “Likewise all phenomena are empty, there is no characteristic, no birth, no cessation, no fabrication, no unfabrication.” This is emptiness. This notion of emptiness is different from the notions like, “the cup is empty, the room is empty etc.” This emptiness is the unification of appearance and emptiness. It is empty yet we can see; it is empty yet we can hear, smell and touch. Why? If it is not empty, then there will be no changes in our everyday life, there will be no arising of new things. Each day, we see different things because of emptiness. The phenomenon that is unborn and unfabricated is the clear mind which is never deluded and always pure.

The “Textbook of Yoga” explains the yoga of conduct, food and sleep. This means that although you may appear to be sleeping like ordinary beings, you are actually sleeping in the Dharmakaya. You appear to be in a deep sleep but you are still in control and are able to maintained clarity of the mind. Though you appear to be asleep, you have already woken up! The yoga of conduct includes all movement of the body, from walking, sitting, standing to talking with people; all these are performed in the Dharmakaya. This means you are never deluded.

When one is not awake, one is dominated by the afflictive emotions, which renders one powerless. If you have the clarity of mind, even though afflictive emotions may arise, you can control them. The practice of yoga teaches you how to control them.

Sometimes, you may find yogis in the society, dressing in weird clothes, behaving in weird manners and they may even smell bad because they do not bathe. Some of these yogis even eat shit, because they do not have notions of what is pleasant and what is unpleasant. To us, shit is something that we deem to be ugly, disgusting and should only be found in the toilet. However, to these yogis, notions of ugly, sweet, delicious, clean and disgusting are just thoughts and projections. They do not truly exist. If you observe young children, you would see that they could engage in their playing without having notions of what is dirty or clean, good or bad. Such notions are taught by parents and become habitual tendencies over time. Hence, these children will grow to know that when they need to shit, they need to go to the toilet, which does not smell nice. The yogis are completely aware and truly realized and hence are beyond all these notions and concepts.

The Tibetan word for the term “yoga” is “narl-jor”. “narl” means unfabricated, natural and fresh. “jor” means reach, as in arriving at a particular destination or attain a certain state. When the mind is deluded and fabricated, we have not reached the fresh or natural state of mind. Once you reach the natural state of the mind, it is narl-jor. No matter where you are, whether you are amongst people in the city or alone in solitude retreat, your mind is unshakable by noise, interruptions and disturbances. The stabilized mind is always calm and peaceful.

“When this fresh, natural mind is not fabricated, this is the Dharmakaya. When there are fabrications in the mind, you would not realize that the true nature of the mind is the Dharmakaya.”

The Dharmakaya is always within the individual, the key lies in whether we recognize it or not. The Buddha said in the scriptures that, “The mind does not exist.” Why did the Buddha say that? The mind is clear but we are unable to see the mind directly. However, we can see it through fabrication and delusions. Although these disturbing emotions arise, you can see that the nature of these disturbing emotions is the Dharmakaya. There is no need to abandon these thoughts or delusions. You can realize the Dharmakaya through the essence of disturbing emotions.

“Therefore, rest in the inseparability nature of bliss and emptiness.”

The word “rest” is the only English word that we can find to describe this situation. However, the English word “rest” often mislead people to think of lying down and falling asleep. The Tibetan word used to describe the above instruction is very clear and precise such that no misunderstanding would arise. The word “rest” refers to simply looking at the essence of the disturbing emotions but not following it, not being shaken by it. Therefore, when disturbing emotions arise, you will be more peaceful. If you do not rest in disturbing emotions, you mind will become unstable and restless, finding fault with almost everything, even virtuous things. The purpose of yoga is to reveal the unfabricated mind. If you rest, it means that you look directly at the essence of your mind. You do not lose the recognition of your mind whether you are alone, with friends or walking along the noisy streets. When the natural quality of yoga arises, disturbing emotions do not affect you. At present, our mind is not at rest and it is not stable. If someone says something good about you, you would feel happy and think, “This is my friend.” If someone says something bad about you, you would feel unhappy and think, “This is my enemy.”

Q: When we are try to be constantly aware of the “I”, does it inflate the “I” and ego?

A: Candrakirti said in his text Madhyamakāvatāra that even though the Buddha had gone beyond the “I”, he still used words like, “This is my bowl, my robe, my sangha…” The usage of such words does not inflate one’s ego. When we say, “I’m thirsty, I need water. I’m hungry, I need food.” This is not the “I” that Madhyamaka tries to eliminate. The “I” that causes problem is something deep in the heart that experiences happiness, unhappiness and other disturbing emotions. Actually the “I” do not cause problems, it’s the clinging on to the “I” that causes problem.

Jun 27, 2008

Dear Dharma brothers and sisters, I now request you to generate the enlightened mind of bodhicitta in order to help all sentient beings to uproot suffering and causes of suffering. Through the listening, contemplation and meditation of the Mahamudra, may we be able to lead all sentient beings to realize the state of Mahamudra.

Here, the great master Maitripa continued by repeating, “How wonderful!”

He said this partly because he had seen the clarity of mind and partly as an encouragement to us that such clarity truly exists. What we lack is diligence. If you put in effort to practice diligently under the proper guidance of a teacher, you will see that such realization existed there all the time. It is not far away from you and is within each and every individual. However the achievement of this clarity or the essence of mind needs your cooperation, without which it cannot surface even if it exists within. If you just pay attention and practice diligently, you would see that such quality exist in every individual.

The next line is, “Relax, yet meditate” or you can say, “Meditate, yet relax”.

If you fix a particular time to meditate, this means that you are not meditating for the rest of the time, but are deluded by fixation to objects. Your mind is unstable when you see and hear things that are good or bad. Under such instability, you are unable to see the true nature of the mind. Thus, Maitripa said, “Relax, yet meditate”. These two activities do not contradict each other.

You may think that relaxing means lying down and falling asleep. However, if you can recognize the true nature of the mind, whether you are sleeping or walking, these activities do not contradict one another. This is the truth of Mahamudra. “Relax” means you do not exert force to be free from thoughts and desire, instead you can even enjoy them. This does not mean that you do not have to eradicate desire or attachment, which we often see as disturbances. Rather, when you are able to see the true nature of your mind as inseparable from the Mahamudra, you can transform these thoughts into your practice.

When we gather together for Dharma teachings, we are very impressed by big topics like Mahamudra or Maha Ati. After the teaching, you may have expectation that you can be enlightened without giving up your desires and disturbing emotions. The Buddha gave different teachings according to the individual’s capacity.

The Buddha did not say, “I am the master, I will teach you all the high tantras, Mahamudra, Maha Ati, Madhyamaka.” Instead, he would examine and teach according to the individual’s capacity. “Mahamudra” and “Maha Ati” are just unimportant terms. However, we become attached to them and discriminate the teachings. Given a choice, we may choose to realize the Mahamudra rather than the Four Noble Truths. This discrimination is due to our attachment and desire and is a great hindrance to our practice. Thus, I do not use such terms but instead I talk about the true nature of the mind. True nature is unfabricated, you have not seen it but yet it is there. Thus we try to find it through studying, contemplation, meditation and following reliable instructions from a proper teacher. This will enable the true nature to surface.

This is how the yogi Saraha and other great master practiced to be free of thoughts, yet not abandoning them. Our dualistic thoughts of good and bad; positive and negative; samsara and nirvana are disturbing thoughts, which we need to overcome. Instead of abandoning them, you bring them into your practice by seeing the nature of the mind. Once you see its true essence, you would realize that they are inseparable from the true nature of your mind which could be found within every individual. Milarepa says,

“Rest your mind. The true nature of the mind arises unceasingly but you are unable to recognize it. When you rest your mind and pay attention to it, you will see it endlessly arising true nature.”

This view is not a Mahamudra or Maha Ati view but a Mahayana view, which had been more emphasized in Mahamudra and Maha Ati.

“How wonderful is it, this practice of the yogi’s meditation. My body is like a mountain.”

This is the mind of a yogi. If you rest in meditation without distraction and focus on your faculties (e.g. eye faculty), your meditation will go well. Some people think that Singapore is not a conducive place for retreat. They have to leave their family for a few months to go to somewhere else more conducive such as India to do their retreat. The above line teaches that you need not run away from your home to go somewhere else. You are inseparable from your body and you carry it with you everywhere. Therefore, your body is the best place for retreat, there’s no need to go anywhere else. If you are able to settle down, your mind, faculties and consciousness are all your friends who will support your retreat and practice.

“It is not necessary to reject these thoughts when you realize that your mind is distracted. Simply watch the essential nature of your mind when thoughts arise. Do not force your mind while you meditate. Simply meditate and relax.”

You do not have to abandon distractions; they are the projections of your mind. Once you are able to realize the true nature of your mind, these distractions become your friends. The more thoughts you have, the better your progress and the greater your realization. Yogis need thoughts and distractions. We use the term “distractions” but they are not really distractions. Distractions disturb the stability of the mind of beginners, but yogis have overcome these problems and remain undisturbed.

Thus, Maitripa said that distractions need not be abandoned. The sights that you see, the sounds that you hear, the fragrance you smell, the things that you taste, the objects that you touch, the thoughts that you have had all become the yidam or deity practice of the Vajrayana. In this context, the deity does not refer to the peaceful and wrathful deities. A wrathful deity may hold a knife in his right hand and a skull in his right looking terrifying. These are just symbols reflecting the true nature of our mind. As beginners cannot see true nature of mind, such dynamic symbols are needed to convey forms, colors, shapes and characteristics. Each symbol is an indication of the absolute meaning. If you can see each object in its true nature, that is the true yidam practice and there is no need to visualize any wrathful or peaceful deities.

In the Vajrayana practice, you are taught visualization and dissolution of the deities. These two practices are the key to the Vajrayana practice. However, the visualization in the generation stage is just a method, not the true practice. Our mind is deluded each and every day. Whatever that arise are negative thoughts associated with our destructive emotions which we are unable to control. It is not a healthy practice to suppress them.

In the Mahayana practice, there is no teaching that advocates the suppression of thoughts. In the calm abiding practice, one is taught to calm and pacify the mind, but not to stop the thoughts. Instead, we learn to transform negative thoughts by doing visualization of form and colors or by concentrating on the sound of mantra. While this is not the true practice of Vajrayana, these practices serve to protect us from hindrances.

The true practice focuses on the mind.

Hence, what Maitripa said above is true. Once you recognize the true nature of your mind, there is no need to visualize any deities.

Yidam practice is none other than realizing the true nature of your mind. All phenomena are reflections of the true nature of your mind. Once you have realized or identified the true nature of your mind, that is the best yidam practice.

“What if the thoughts continue to arise in meditation, what should the yogi do?”

Maitripa said it does not matter, simply leave it like leaving a piece of wool. Likewise, when thoughts arise, you do not have to abandon the thoughts, neither do you follow them. Thoughts are like drawings in the water that disappear as soon as they are being drawn. As long as you are able to relax and rest in the natural state of your mind, even if thoughts arise, they will also rest in the true nature of the mind. Thus thoughts do not disturb the yogis, but become their best friends and help the yogi progress in meditation. It is true that if you are able to rest in the true nature of your mind, the thoughts just disappear. The more thoughts arise, the better your practice will be and the greater your progress is.

“But a beginner in meditation needs to sit down and spend more time in meditation.”

You cannot think, “I have meditated on the Mahamudra for one month, now my thoughts have become my friends.” You need proper guidance, explanation and discussion from time to time. On one hand, meditation is very simple, but on the other hand, it can be very complicated and you can make many mistakes. The impact from a serious mistake can be very devastating and difficult to rectify. Hence Maitripa said that a beginner in meditation would need proper training. It is not as simple as what you read from the text, or what others claim to be. You may buy books on the Mahamudra from bookshops but do not think that after reading them, you do not need a teacher. It is not that simple. Training needs time and the training of one month, three years or even ten years, is not enough. What is written in the book remains as a philosophy or logical concept until you experience it in your own practice. When you have experienced it directly, the realization is forever and you can guide others to the right path.

“Watch your mind all the time. If you find any fixation or attachment, that is the demon.”

We are very scared of demons. Sometimes you hear of people going to the lama or Rinpoche telling them that they hear noises underneath their beds at night or their kitchen is very noisy and they suspect that there must be some ghosts in the house. Sometimes what they say may even scare the lama! This kind of irritation is not good for your mind.

In Buddhism, particularly in the Mahayana tradition, we always say that we should cultivate compassion and loving kindness. The more problems, difficulties and enemies you have, the more compassion and loving kindness you should cultivate. If that is the case, why do you run away upon hearing that there are ghosts? Is the ghost not a sentient being that deserves your compassion? Thus, you do not have to ask the lama or Rinpoche for protection. The obscuration or disturbing emotions in your mind during meditation is the real demon. The demon in your house is not scary, what is scary is the demon during meditation. Therefore, you should do meditate more and watch your mind.

The above explanation is on right view. Now we continue with the explanation on meditation.

"The root of all thoughts is the mind.”

Through examination during meditation, you will realize that neither the thought nor mind exists. Meditation is based on the thinking and non-thinking. When you are examining the fresh mind (in Tibetan, the fresh mind is called “nyuk ma”, which means “untouched”), thoughts have not arisen yet. The thoughts were dissolved into the Mahamudra. “Dissolve” here does not mean that it originally existed and subsequently disappeared. Rather it means that it is inseparable from Dharmakaya. Once you recognize, it becomes oneness or suchness. This is what we meant by “dissolve”.

The result of meditation is enlightenment.

Why do we meditate? Because we want to be liberated!

Why do you watch your mind? Because you want to be enlightened!

However, Maitripa said the opposite. He said that as long as you have the desire to be liberated, your meditation would not be good. In this essential practice, even the desire to achieve liberation needs to be cut off. You should overcome the desire to obtain liberation, as this is an obstacle to attain enlightenment.

In the Mahamudra practice, you’ll find four yogas or four stages in which the final stage is non-meditation. We do meditation to obtain non-meditation. When there is nothing to meditate on, it is called non-meditation or the true meditation of Mahamudra.

If you have true understanding or knowledge of meditation, then your daily life can also be integrated with meditation. In this way, you can maintain your practice for hours. Every activity is carried out in meditation, be it sleeping, waking up, eating or walking. This is a vital point in the essential teaching.

“Meditate without expectation.”

Maitripa emphasized that expectation is a hindrance in meditation. Both the expectation in this life and next life are hindrances. Thus, Maitripa taught that we should be without expectation like a child in an art gallery. When you are at the art gallery, you may have concepts of the art pieces saying, “This is beautiful, that one is not that good. This is from Italy and that is from France.” In this way, you create many labels and concepts. In contrast, a child at the art gallery just hangs around and he may even feel bored because he has no idea what an art gallery is.

“Practice without fixation like a bee collecting pollen from flower to flower.”

After collecting pollen from a flower, the bee flies away to another flower without any expectation. The bee does not think, “Where is the yellow flower that I just collected pollen from?” When it is collecting pollen, the bee may not necessarily go back to the same flower.

Likewise, it is very important to be without fixation to the meditation, its qualities, the instructions, and the meditation cave and retreat places. Fixation is the greatest hindrance to meditation.

“Meditate without fear like a lion, moving fearlessly in the forest.”

You should be free from fear, suspicion and anxiety when you meditate. These are hindrances to your meditation. Instead, you should be like a lion that lives and moves fearlessly in the forest.

“The beginner needs to examine his/her mind in the following aspects – inner, outer and in between.”

The beginner needs to do more examination. You know from the teaching that the mind is clear and inseparable from emptiness. However, until you can identify it correctly, you still need to examine your mind thoroughly in its various aspects – inner, outer and in between.

“The supreme conduct is without attachment or rejection, like a madman without fear and shame. This essence of mind perceives the multitude of perception. Do not get distracted with thoughts but watch its essential nature.”

Now we come to the third part, which is related to conduct. If you do not grasp onto perceptions, you can attain enlightenment. The emergence of the outer and inner mind is the sacred attainment of Mahamudra.

“You need to rest your mind in a non-conceptual state like the water of a lake.”

When you are free from thoughts and thinking, that is the path of meditation. The result of Mahamudra is free from hope and fear. The result of meditation is not external to us but to be found within us.

If thought arises, its nature is temporal, like clouds arising in the sky. There may be many clouds in the sky but they only obscure the sun, moon and stars temporarily and do not change their quality. Once the strong wind blows, the clouds drift away to reveal the sun in its unaltered quality. Similarly, no matter how much and how long the disturbing emotions obscure the mind of sentient beings, the natural state of the mind is not changed.

Therefore we still have the opportunity to attain enlightenment through practice.

“Meditators should realize that thoughts are naturally empty and have no concrete existence. Rely on the emergence of view, meditation and conduct. The result of enlightenment is the realization of the non-dual state.”

We always get rid of thoughts thinking that they are not good. We think that good meditators should not have thoughts. Hence we become fearful of thoughts.

However, according to this teaching, thoughts are reflections of the Mahamudra and the true nature of the mind. Each and every thought carries the ultimate meaning of the mind. You can realize the true nature of the mind through thoughts. Without thoughts, you are unable to see the true nature of the mind. The only catch is, if you are not alert and do not recognize the thoughts when they arise, they can lead you away. This is where samsara and cyclic existence start. If you could catch the thought and see its true nature, you will realize that it is just a reflection of the Mahamudra, Maha Ati, the true nature of the mind or emptiness, or whatever terms you may use. Thoughts are not disturbing; what is disturbing is your clinging and attachment to these thoughts. We are not practicing Mahamudra or Madhyamaka to suppress or prevent thoughts from arising, but to recognize their true nature. In this way, we are able to recognize the Mahamudra and gain enlightenment.

Thus, we need to use thoughts skillfully to make them helpful for our practice. This is the teaching of the great pandit, Maitripa.


According to history it is said that Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, whose source of emanation is the Buddha Maitreya, took many births as different Mahasiddhas of India, such as Yeshe Nyingpo, Pandita Mirtijana etc. and worked for the benefit of the Buddha Dharma and many sentient beings.

The 1st Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche, Tashi Paljor, took birth in Nyen Phodrang in the Thadul Gyi Tsuglag Khang in Den Lhakhang Drölma, in the East part of Tibet. At the age of 7, he met the 7th Karmapa Chödrak Gyamtso in whom he developed extraordinary faith. He gave him the name Tashi Paljor. At the age of 8, he received novice vows, (later on the full ordination vows) empowerment, profound instructions and he studied all the outer and inner sciences with great diligence.

He practiced the 3 wisdoms of listening, contemplating and meditating until the age of 23 under the guidance of both Benkar Jamphal Sangpo and Geshe Paljor Döndrub. Especially he relied on the 7th Karmapa Chödrak Gyamtso and didn’t part from him for 7 years. In this time he received the complete profound instructions of the Karma Kamtsang Lineage and H.H. told him to practice at Khampo Nenang for 3 years, at Tsurphu for 2 years, in Phalpung for 2 years and at Thangla for one year.

During these 8 years he didn’t rely on any human food but solely was nourished by "Bar Lung“ (the intermediate energy practice). Moreover, he practiced for 5 years in Jang Namtsho. From the age of 23 to the age of 43 he was solely practicing meditation. The lamas and dakinis prophesied that he should establish a great Dharma place in Denyul. At that time he was staying on the 4th floor of a house during an earthquake. Although the whole house was destroyed, he came out in a miraculous way without any injury. Since then he was called Mahasiddha Nyenpa.

Consequently, he moved to another place and established the Changchub Chökhor Ling Monastery in Denkhok. Mikyö Dorje, the 8th Karmapa had a vision of Mahakala who told him that he should take Sangye Nyenpa as his root lama. From that time onwards, Nyenpa Rinpoche offered H.H. Karmapa complete empowerment and profound instructions. Having performed great Dharma activities for the benefit of all sentient beings and Buddha Dharma, he passed away into nirvana at the age of 65.

The following Nyenpa Rinpoches are:

2nd Lhungpo Rabten
3rd Geleg Nyingpo
4th Geleg Gyamtso who established Benchen Monastery
5th Deleg Nyingpo
6th Drubgyu Tendar
7th Sherab Nyingpo
8th Tashi Drubchog who recognized Tenzin Chögyalas the reincarnation of Lama Samten, the 1st Tenga Rinpoche

From then onwards a special connection has been established, which Tenga Rinpoche continued having in his present life since the age of 3. 9th Tenpa Nyima who passed into Parinirvana at the age of 66 in Rumtek Monastery, Sikkim the seat of H.H. Karmapa.The 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche was recognized by H.H. 16th Karmapa, who saw through His undiluted wisdom eye the birthplace, the name of the parents, the year and sign of birth and thus gave clear indication.

Nyenpa Rinpoche was born in a family of practitioners; Sangye Lekpa and the mother Karma Tshewang Choden, who resided at Guru Rinpoche’s temple, the Tiger Nest Phatro Tagtsang in Bhutan. He was invited to Rumtek Monastery where he was enthroned by H.H. Karmapa and given the name of Karma Palden Rangjung Thrinle Kunkyab Tenpe Gyaltsen Pal Sangpo.

At the age of 5 he started his studies, writing and reading as well as the outer and inner sciences relying on H.H. Karmapa, H.H. Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche and other great masters. In particular he received from H.H. the novice and Bodhisattva vows, many empowerments of the highest Yoga Tantra, instructions on Chagchen Da Ser, Marig Münsel (Eliminating the Darkness of Ignorance), Chöku Tzubtsug (Poiting out the Dharmakaya) etc. and thus was introduced to the ultimate realisation.

He completed 10 years of studies at the Nalanda Institute in Rumtek and obtained the title of an Acharya. Thereafter he was teaching for 3 years at the institute. Nyenpa Rinpoche is one of the most learned Rinpoches in both philosophy and tantric rituals. Presently he lives in his monastery Benchen Phuntsok Dargyeling Kathmandu, Nepal giving teachings to the monks and other disciples. The rest of the time he spends in retreat.